Constructive Feedback – The Writer’s Drug

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Over the weekend, I sent my current (incomplete) novel draft to my second reader, a professor that is helping me work towards my goals of writing 30,000 words by the end of May and then going on to publishing. My second reader, who is a woman I adore and has already been such a huge influence on my project and positive outlook, sent me my draft with all her comments on it.

I love comments! Seriously, ask any writer who has ever attended a workshop, comments are. The. Best. Feedback is a writer’s lifeblood, the happy pills that take the pressure off because somebody is there to help guide the way. Her feedback was full of helpful, constructive, and informed thoughts that suddenly revealed a restructuring of my work that made me say out loud, “Yes! That’s it! That’s what I wanted it to be like!”

I turned a few heads in the University library. Did I care? Nope, I was flying high on this new understanding of my work. Previously, I’d just been writing it all down in one long flow of words, working my way from point A to B to D. I figured, for the first draft, it’s about the journey not the destination (destination? Wait, that sounds like I have a plan. Maybe, that should read: It’s about the journey not the mental breakdown over endings).

My second reader had taken the time to mark where she saw scenes starting and ending, what felt connected, what didn’t, and then went as far as to have pulled lines for suggested headings/chapter titles to help organize things. Obviously, these were all suggestions, done with the understanding that I was the writer and could ultimately do whatever, which made me respect the effort even more. I could see the piece through her eyes, which was an objectivity that, lets face it, us writers just don’t have. We’re like parents who simultaneously question our child rearing skills while believing our kids can do no wrong. I could tell I was hacking at the story line and characters, swinging away without direction or though to artistry, focused on the down and dirty of the job. But I was getting tired. I was getting discouraged.

It didn’t help that I had to drop all my novel work in order to complete a thirty-page project for another course. That succeeded in knocking me totally out of my novel head space, to the point where I just stared at the document with a blinking cursor and a sinking heart.

But then came the feedback! And it saved me! I think that’s the start of a new writer’s gospel hymn, a project to remember for later. Sure, I have to restructure my entire work, but with the beauty that is technology (read: Ctrl-C Ctrl-V) it doesn’t mean much more than dividing my scene/chapters into different documents and working on each individually to smooth out the transitional kinks.

I am concerned this is going to drop my word count, as many of the changes I’m making render aspects of the current storyline obsolete, but I plan on keeping the previous, un-edited file on hand so that it can be included when the word count points are tallied. Still, it’s all worth it to feel that spark in my work again. I have an entire week and weekend to catch up on numbers, what matters is that I have direction, I have structure, and damn it, I have a plan!

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2 thoughts on “Constructive Feedback – The Writer’s Drug

  1. This is definitely a good point. Though there’s a dark side to feedback as well. I’ve had negative feedback in the past that made me feel torn down and unable to write anything else. So it’s a very good thing that you have a reader who is offering constructive, rather than destructive feedback.

    Also, I may have said this before, but when you say, “it doesn’t mean much more than dividing my scene/chapters into different documents and working on each individually to smooth out the transitional kinks,” use Scrivener! Scrivener turns all of that copy/pasting and different documents into a very smooth process. It can hold each chapter as a separate document, but allow you to view the documents threaded together as a single whole. It’s a beautiful thing.

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